Faridabad fashion and California curry

Cultural imperialism is now a two-way street, just as economic globalisation is, writes Narayanan Madhavan.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 19:29 IST

The advertisement announcing a fancy high-rise apartment project in Faridabad invites us to “California Country” just a whiff away from the buffaloes that straddle the national capital’s border. Of course, Gurgaon already has its Beverly Heights. Americana rules, as Britannia did once, as is still evident in projects like Bangalore’s Kensington Gardens.

But, perhaps it is time to remember that yonder the Atlantic or the Pacific, depending on which way you look at it, curry is hot. In a sign of the changing times, Indian techies in the Silicon Valley are sometimes wooed in corporate canteens of companies like Oracle with dal or sambar (though some geeks swear that any resemblance to the original Indian variety is coincidental).

Surprise, surprise! Even Parle-G, the humble glucose biscuit that one had written off as things to be dipped in tea on second-class railway compartments can actually be found in places like Sunnyvale, California, where a certain shopping area has been informally named “Gandhi Market” for its Indian store. Asked how that was possible in the land of prosperous cookies, an Indian woman once said: “That helps a daughter-in-law converse with her mother-in-law in India and convince her that the grandchildren get only the best!”

Cultural imperialism is now a two-way street, just as economic globalisation is. Michael Jackson videos feature Odissi dancers and Angelina Jolie, at least for camera’s sake, takes an auto-rickshaw in downtown Pune. But Delhi’s denizens, slightly out of the times while being fashionable, prefer “California Country.”

Michael Lewis had formally announced the arrival of India in Silicon Valley when he wrote in “The New New Thing” – a celebrated chronicle in the tech industry – that California, by the mid-1990s or so, had acquired a distinct flavour of curry. Back in India, currying favour for American names is more happening than the curry flavour in the land of high-tech!

More on this: While a dozen male honchos stood in formal western suits at the awards ceremony of a pink business paper in India, two women smiled confidently into the peering lenses. Mallika Srinivasan, wearing a maroon churidar-kameez, picked up an entrepreneur of the year award, carefully hiding both her single plait and Wharton MBA behind her dress.

Next to her stood a certain Mrs Krishnamurthy from Chennai, ageing but wallowing in celebratory confidence. She picked up a laurel on behalf of her daughter Indra Nooyi, global chief executive of PepsiCo, who was too busy elsewhere to make it to the function. Indra used to play the guitar as a college kid in Chennai, but does make it to her hometown now and then to catch the annual December season for Carnatic music lovers. The next time she does, her corporate jet may or may not overfly “California Country” in Faridabad.

First Published: Oct 19, 2006 19:29 IST